OPINION: Roseanne and Free Speech

Tamlynn Torchon

More than just her show, Roseanne Barr’s career has been canceled. From ABC to her talent agency ICM Partners, to her co-workers such as Michael Fisherman and Wanda Sykes dropping her, it’s safe to say that Barr’s career is either over or severely damaged, and rightfully so: no one should get a pass on calling a Black person (in this case, Valerie Jarrett) a product of apes. Let’s never forget the shameful history this country always had with people of color, especially with Blacks. This criteria of respect or refraining are more so important for public figures such as Barr. She deserved to have her show canceled.

The eleventh season of “Roseanne” has been cancelled after Roseanne Barr’s tweet.

What is almost surprising to observe are the defenders of Roseanne Barr. They cry out that her First Amendment right was violated, claiming the liberal media is suppressing their undeniable right to speak their minds. It is amusing to note that the platforms defending Barr are also the ones slamming down NFL players protesting racial injustice,  none of which are derogatory or offensive, excluding ultra-nationalist feelings, of course. People nowadays pick and choose when and to whom the First Amendment applies, so in the spirit of Free Speech, it’s time to revisit and redefine the Amendment.

When the Forefathers of the U.S. created the Constitution, they made free speech their very first law of the land because they emigrated or left a kingdom that suppressed critical and opposing voices. They understood that not speaking for fear of brutal retaliation was a symbolic prison. Thus, free speech came about to protect those who have something to say. However, everyone should understand that there’s a certain way to speak because it is simply human respect and decency. Aside from that, free speech is not about catering to feelings, and in the U.S. it goes both ways (in terms of the ideological spectrum).

There is a considerable number of people who believe that Free Speech is or should be consequence-free, regardless if it is insensitive, discriminatory or just wrong in terms of facts. Generally, the majority of these free-speech advocates have [hideous] social views that the general population does not agree with, which explains why they feel so attacked when they are publicly condemned. It’s time to face it: free speech does not equate to hate speech. Though legally it may not be so explicitly clear, socially most people agree that when a person is being hateful, this person needs to be reprimanded.

As we’ve all seen lately, saying whatever one wants may lead to severe consequences, such as losing your career, receiving backlash, facing a boycott, and so on. Why? Because words are powerful, especially when being a celebrity. Free speech is not and will never be consequence-free. As mentioned before, it has no favorite. Roseanne Barr used her free speech, and she got what she deserved, agreed or not. She replied to Michael Fishman’s statements about her Twitter rampage with a whine:








Let’s be clear: it will never matter if you think you’ve previously helped with inclusivity; if anything, actions like that Twitter incident reinforce your hypocrisy. It was a simple façade of tolerance to appeal to others of whom you secretly despise or hate. Let’s note that this instance is not the first time  Barr was being disrespectful: who can forget her infamous 1990 National Anthem butchering? Many people are wondering how she ever could sustain a career after that, and if a person of color would still have found a job if that person did the same, especially with recent events of the NFL. That discussion is for another day. 

Let’s clarify: either you, as an individual, understand that your words have power and should be used responsibly, or you should be ready for a most likely well-deserved backlash, regardless of your ideas regarding the First Amendment. The beautiful thing about free speech is that the rebuking to your speech is also free, and most likely it could cost you everything. Therefore, for purposes of redefining the matter, we should all say the phrase “Free and Responsible Speech,” because what you say matters and, whether you realize it or not, it has consequences.

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